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Steve Edwards has led revenue growth and the addition of the new Cox South patient tower.SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Steve Edwards has led revenue growth and the addition of the new Cox South patient tower.

SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON

2017 Dynamic Dozen No. 9 and Judge’s Choice: CoxHealth

Posted online
SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Steve Edwards: There are three or four factors: Gradual growth in our community, which might be a little greater in health care because we’re beginning to see the aging of the population. It appears our footprint of the care we’re providing is expanding, particularly in Stone and Taney counties. And overall some nice, incremental gains in market share.

SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Edwards: Our rate-limiting factor in growth is not getting physical capacity or technology, it’s really getting enough qualified people. It’s a discussion we’re having with many of the colleges and universities, as we see our economy evolve and so many articles about automation killing jobs. My sense is automation creates productivity and efficiency gains that create better jobs. While factory jobs and others seem to be a little less stable, in high-end service jobs the demand is really great, so we’re working with local universities to get people to maybe retrain or retool from less stable industries into health care. Attracting new talent is my No. 1, 2 and 3 concern right now – getting the right quality people in the organization.

SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Edwards: What really will sustain the long-term growth is the aging of our population and understanding once we get over the age of 65, we tend to use two to three times more health care resources. As baby boomers continue to retire at the rate of 10,000 a day across the country, that means most of our markets will grow as our population ages.

SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Edwards: The tipping point has everything to do with talent and converting people into more stable and higher paying wages that health care offers. For reasons I have yet to quite understand, we are not rallying quick enough to convert people to those, in my mind, better jobs. In Springfield, we have challenges in poverty, yet we also have very low unemployment and those two don’t normally correlate. That tells me the jobs we have are more likely to be low-end service jobs that don’t pay as much. When I think that for someone who can get an associate degree and become a nurse and with a little overtime and certification pay can quickly make $50,000-$70,000 a year, to me the tipping point is when the universities and others realize we need to convert from this manufacturing mentality to high-end service mentality.

SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Edwards: I don’t think they have. We’ve been pretty consistent in knowing as a health care provider we need to continue to evolve away from this acute, tertiary oriented center to one that’s oriented toward primary care, prevention and population health. Instead of being focused on consumption of resources, we need to be more oriented toward preservation of resources by investing more in people’s health. The highest quality of care often has lower costs because high utilization and high test rates often create medical problems. There is this sweet spot where cost and quality line up. We’re focused on providing just the right resources for our patients and direct more resources toward prevention and keeping them healthy.

SBJ: What is the worst business advice you’ve received?
Edwards: I’ve known people who have mentored me and they have an impatience about filling key positions. It’s more important to fill the position to them than to fill it with the right person. My advice is in hiring key executives and talent, be patient. People I’ve worked with in the past have rushed to fill those spots. I get the sense of urgency, especially when we’ve got shortages in health care professionals. But one good hire can change the destiny for an organization.

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